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Published: Wed Oct 15 1986
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
Bad News


At low tide the inhuman mire mounts.
The water is red
receding, scalding
the rocks it uncovers:
It is your blood ebbing out of your veins
into the sea,
and you will have to wait
for the tide to come back
to raise your head
again, to rise.

On Swan’s Island the children gather
wild raspberries,
rake the clearing clean in minutes,
below the lighthouse,
that, boarded up,
gives off no shadow
in the fierce
unrepentant light;
no relief for eight
red palms.

The stillness whispers:
A snake glides through the grass.
As we swim in the quarry
a scream is heard
over their shouts, somewhere beyond
the high ridge of dynamited granite.
All heads crane up toward its echo at once.


You have longed to vanquish this unease
and now it’s been done
without your willing.
What a blessing, death,
nature’s friend and (false) comforter.
What a balm after so much
exertion. Listen:
in the windless air
the trees are at peace and the roads
These ditches, hollowed
like coffins by all this rain
need little work
to house us for eternity.


Here are the fields wherein
we lay, taking cover
in ditches as the sky

darkened, thunder
backfired and the earth
began to tremble:

We mistook these sounds
for a convoy of trucks
which never appeared.

After so much holding back
comes the final letting go.
What on earth could be more wonderful!

An hour till sunset:
There won’t
be one today.

The next time
you walk along this shore
it will be without manacles.

Or not at all.


That might    redeem    the time
and salvage    this departure
as when    the haze swallows    the sea
the sky    entirely    and all
sounds come    from unconsidered
perilous sources    fissures appear
and everything    that held us here
is gone    and the gong    resounds
in an evacuated square    hollowly
as if the fishes    of the sea
could learn    to listen.

Still true    the sea heals.

My fingers    crossed
for your    survival

See what's inside AGNI 23

Mark Rudman recently completed Sundays on the Phone, the fifth volume of his Rider Quintet. A selection from the five books, The Motel En Route to Life Out There, was released in 2008 by Salt Publishing. The Book of Samuel: Essays on Poetry and Imagination was published this year by Northwestern University Press. He is currently translating Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. (updated 3/2009)

Rudman’s The Nowhere Steps was reviewed in AGNI 35 by Linda Orr.

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